Beckett sets aside a whole chapter to describe Murphy’s “mind,” which “pictured itself as a large hollow sphere, hermetically closed to the universe without.” As for his body, Murphy is not in the best of health; more specifically, he gets winded easily and walks with considerable deliberation. Most important, Murphy seeks repose in the mid-distance between the mind and the body, where neither aggravates the other. In the endless struggle between the two, Murphy has sought to call a truce. The other characters insist that mind and body must struggle eternally, and will not leave Murphy alone. In one of the most telling conversations between Celia and Murphy, Murphy tells her, “of you, mind, and body, one must go, or two, or all.”
To understand the “character” of Murphy fully, one must set aside preconceived notions of psychological characterization constructed by an author and given life through the reader’s observations of the character in action, aided by an omniscient narrator. One critic refers to the novel as a sort of “reader-participation” novel, in that the clues to plot and character are disguised as seemingly irrelevant and arbitrary bits of information spilled onto the page as the narrator rushes through the text. Finally, Murphy is not so much a character as an embodiment of an idea, the idea of Beckett’s perceptions of the world—namely, that it is an unfortunate affliction to be born and that the implications of having been born are to be avoided wherever possible. While the other characters act with some attention to cause and effect, Murphy avoids effect by avoiding cause, steering clear of all...
(The entire section is 676 words.)